Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Hobbes vs Rousseau: Are We Inherently Evil or Good?

In 1651, Thomas Hobbes famously wrote that life in the state of nature – that is, our natural condition outside the authority of a political state – is ‘solitary, poore, nasty brutish, and short.’ Just over a century later, Jean-Jacques Rousseau countered that human nature is essentially good, and that we could have lived peaceful and happy lives well before the development of anything like the modern state. At first glance, then, Hobbes and Rousseau represent opposing poles in answer to one of the age-old questions of human nature: are we naturally good or evil? In fact, their actual positions are both more complicated and interesting than this stark dichotomy suggests. But why, if at all, should we even think about human nature in these terms, and what can returning to this philosophical debate tell us about how to evaluate the political world we inhabit today?The question of whether humans are inherently good or evil might seem like a throwback to theological controversies about [More]

Kant and the Science of Logic: A Historical and Philosophical Reconstruction

2019.03.24 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Huaping Lu-Adler, Kant and the Science of Logic: A Historical and Philosophical Reconstruction, Oxford University Press, 2018, 244pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780190907136. Reviewed by Jill Vance Buroker, California State University, San Bernardino In this book, Huaping Lu-Adler provides a detailed analysis of Kant's view that logic is a science, that is, a formal system of a priori rules of thought. This characterization is not surprising, but the complexity underlying it is. To spell this out, she identifies four key questions to be answered. First, is logic a) a science, b) an instrument or organon for acquiring knowledge, c) a canon or standard for assessing reasoning, or d) some combination of these? Second, if logic is a science, what is its subject matter distinguishing it from other sciences? Third, if logic is necessary to all philosophy, on what principles is it based and how are they justified? And fourth, if logic is both... Read [More]

A Companion to Ricoeur's Freedom and Nature

2019.03.23 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Scott Davidson (ed.), A Companion to Ricoeur's Freedom and Nature, Lexington, 2018, 233pp., $100.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781498578882. Reviewed by Pol G. Vandevelde, Marquette University This collection of twelve essays is a welcome and successful attempt to bring back to light one of Paul Ricoeur’s first books, Freedom and Nature, a long (464 pages) and difficult one. It was not Ricoeur’s first monograph. He had published Karl Jaspers et la philosophie de l’existence (co-authored with Mikel Dufrenne) in 1947 and Gabriel Marcel et Karl Jaspers: Philosophie du mystère et philosophie du paradoxe in 1948. Yet, Freedom and Nature, published in 1950, is the first important, consistent effort by Ricoeur to present his own views in a systematic way. The book was intended as the first volume of a larger project on a “Philosophy of the Will.” The French title of this first volume is Philosophie... Read [More]

Meritocracy Is Good But We Don't Have It

The most surprising thing about the news that wealthy parents are bribing their children’s way into elite colleges was the outrage that it produced. After all, revelations of public corruption and depravity are now regular occurrences, and college admissions have rarely been considered a model of fairness.  Why so much upset over so little (relative) wrongdoing?The answer, I think, is that these events implicate the meritocratic ideal upon which the United States was founded, and which people still endorse.  Already we are being told, variously, that it all goes to show that meritocracy is an “illusion” or a “myth”; or maybe that meritocracy is functioning well; or that it is an “historically awful idea”; and more.  Alas, none of these authors take the time to say what they mean by “meritocracy”, making the claims hard to evaluate.  So I’d like to take a moment to explain precisely what a meritocracy is before drawing what I regard as the important moral lessons from the scandal.A [More]